Friends of WPC Nepal Volunteer, Sarah Longino, writes about her experience as a volunteer at the WPC safe home in Hetauda, Nepal.
In October 2017, I quit my marketing job to pursue something more meaningful. All I knew was that I wanted to help fight the human trafficking crisis that was happening throughout the world, including Seattle. It wasn’t until a friend connected me with Friends of WPC Nepal in Seattle that I knew I wanted to go to Nepal and help the women and children in the WPC Safe Home.
In early November, I traveled on a 6-hour journey on a windy, bumpy and dangerous road from Kathmandu to Hetauda, a city near the Indian border and the home of WPC Nepal. Little did I know the life-changing experiences that awaited me there.
I learned 4 powerful lessons while volunteering in the safe home.
1. The Healing Power of Family
From the moment I arrived, I was impressed by how happy, active and caring the children are. They have experienced a wide variety of traumas: abuse from alcoholic fathers, parents who offered no love or protection, growing up in brothels, being sold to circuses in India and extreme poverty, but none of these experiences show in their faces. At the WPC Safe Home, they are part of a loving, safe and stable family, which has helped them overcome their pasts and become happy, confident children with the opportunity to have a future.
2. Empowering Women, Empowers Communities
WPC offers a vocational training program in tailoring and sewing. Most of the women in the program are uneducated or unable to finish grade school. They are often the sole-provider of their family. This program empowers them to give their children a future and ultimately end the cycle of poverty for their family. It also gives them the opportunity to give back to their community. Many program graduates go on to provide vocational training to others in their community, or they open their own business and hire other women who also need resources for their families. So the cycle of empowerment continues.
3. The Power of Education
Not only does WPC give children in the home the opportunity to attend school, they also provide support to local families that need help sending their children to school. Many families in Nepal want to send their children to school, but do not have the means to do so because school isn’t free. Additionally, these children will either help at home or have to go out and find work to help bring in income. With the help of WPC, these children can complete their schooling and gain the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to pursue a career to help them and their families overcome poverty.
4. The Importance of a Sense of Humor
I often heard the phrase “Welcome to Nepal!” paired with a shrug and a smile from WPC staff members in response to sudden, unexplained changes in regard to the safe home construction or my teaching schedule. It became a mantra that helped me remember that things don’t operate the same way in Nepal as in the U.S. and to not get upset or impatient when things did not go as planned. I learned to approach each situation with openness and a sense of humor. And what do you know? This attitude also works in all aspects of my life! It has helped me through the difficult transition of returning home and starting a new career and continues to guide me through every aspect of my life.
I am so grateful that I was able to travel to Nepal and meet all the amazing women and children in the safe home and the staff who work tirelessly to run the safe home. I am happy that I am able to work with WPC in Seattle and know that the work I’m doing benefits the lives of those I met in Hetauda.